Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Roller Derby - The Expected Injury

A year ago, almost to the day, I wrote about how I'd returned to Roller Derby, how I'd transformed my attitude towards it and how I wanted to become a better skater.

Now I'm here to write about how I'm leaving again and how scared I am.

For those of you to whom the words Roller Derby mean absolutely nothing - In a nutshell, it's a primarily female contact sport played on roller skates. It's hard, complicated, exhilarating and ferociously fun.

10 people, 5 from each team, skate onto the oval track. 1 point scorer (jammer) from each team tries to push, jump and skate their way through the rest of the people on track (the pack) as they're using their bodies to push, hit and block her. Each time the point scorer (jammer) laps members of the opposing team they score a point. This is done in 2 minute segments known as jams until an hour has flown by. Easy...right? You can learn more here. It starts to make sense after a while, I promise.

Over the last 21 months I've watched members of my team go through bones breaking, ligaments snapping, muscles tearing and all other manner of injuries that may have never been quite diagnosed, yet stopped my teammates, my friends, skating - sometimes for long periods. 

But we play derby and we know all of this, yet we still step on track two, three, four times a week and we plough on. The best we can do is train hard and cross our fingers that we're going to walk out of that hall in the same state we entered, without obsessing over the idea that we may not. And we do, more than 99% of the time (bruises not included). We can be safe, but almost always injury is unpredictable.

I'm not injured though, not right now, but in a number of days I can fearfully count on one hand, I'm going to be having an operation (then another) on a derby player's most useful appendages - my feet, something that I've been desperately avoiding for two years.

It's a corrective surgery for what has affectionately come to be known as 'Shit Feet' - the tendons in my feet have given up on being tendons, meaning my walk more closely resembles penguin than human at the moment and my toes are clawed into ungodly shapes, rendering buying shoes near impossible.

Knowing that the surgery will mean hanging up my skates for over a year and most likely never skating with my current team again is truly heartbreaking and with each passing day I swear I can sense the acrid stench of the hospital getting stronger all around me.

Though, let's look at the situation optimistically, more realistically. I'm only going to be out of my skates for around a year (oh..), 12 months (crap), 365 days (fuckfuckfuck). I've already gone 3 days this week without skating and I'm only getting a *little* itchy, I just have to repeat that 121 times and I'm done!

Is it getting hot in here?

The closer the operation gets, the more things I become fearful of and the closer I get to convincing myself that walking without pain is really a luxury I don't really need. So what's so scary?

It's hard to explain how deeply that this sport has engrained itself into my life, how it's not just a game and these aren't just people that I know. It's a major part of who I am now.

When you skate and play with your teammates you see them more than almost anyone you don't actually live with. I'm not one for overly lovey-dovey-namby-pamby-teamie-lovely-coochie-woochy…stuff but you do form a bond and a connection that I've never had anywhere outside of roller derby and stepping outside of that circle will be tough. Of course I will still be involved, I will help the team grow, help the new skaters get better and join the hobbling masses of derby injuries past, but I won't be THERE, on track, in the thick of it. I won't walk away with bruises every week (affectionately deemed 'derby kisses' by the sport).

The time spent away from skating, watching your team play is heartbreaking and frustrating, sometimes bringing a strange feeling of guilt, not just for not being there for your team, but for feeling jealous of those who can still skate. Who wants to become the person that's jealous of other people's happiness? Nobody likes that guy.

In a city where I never intended to live, but found so much to love - roller derby has brought me a sense of belonging and peace that only a family can, and it feels like it's about to be taken from me.

At least there will be morphine. 

God bless painkillers.

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